‘I feel confused, scared’: Man cuts off girl’s hijab with scissors near Toronto school
UPDATE: Toronto police have found the allegations reported in this story to be false. For the latest on this story, click here.
Toronto police are searching for a male suspect after a girl was attacked twice and had her hijab cut with scissors outside her school in the city’s east end.
Grade 6 student Khawlah Noman told reporters Thursday she feels “confused,” “scared” and “terrified” after the incident.
Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu said school staff told police the 11-year-old girl was walking to Pauline Johnson Junior Public School in Toronto’s east end at about 8:30 a.m. when she noticed a man behind her with a pair of scissors cutting at the back of her hijab. He had pulled off her hood and proceeded to cut.
“It’s startling, it’s disturbing it’s nerve-wracking,” Sidhu said. “Young people going to school should not have to go through this.”
WATCH: Little girl speaks out after man allegedly cuts off her Hijab with a pair of scissors
The girl had been walking with a group of people but had fallen behind when her brother Mohammad Zakariyya, 10, failed to make it across the street when the light had changed.
Sidhu said the girl turned around and screamed, which startled the man before he ran off.
“This girl was brave enough to confront the man, look at the man, make a noise which is very good of her to realize that this is very wrong.”
She said the girl then crossed the street and rejoined the group and, about 10 minutes later, she noticed the man cutting at her hijab again.
Sidhu said when the girl turned to confront him again, he ran away.
WATCH: Toronto Police praise actions, bravery of little girl in suspected hate crime attack
Noman said that her light blue hijab was cut 12 inches from the bottom going up.
Police said she did not suffer any physical injuries.
Police said the incident is now being treated as a hate crime.
Noman’s mother, Saima Samad, fought back tears as she told reporters she rushed to the school ‘right away’ to be with her daughter.
She said she has no idea why the suspect did what he did but she’s just glad that she is safe.
“I’ve been here for 25 years, I grew up here,” Samad said. “I’m so proud to be a Canadian.”
She said she feels safe in the community and that everyone, including police, have been “very supportive.”
WATCH: Toronto Police release description of man who allegedly cut off little girl’s Hijab with scissors
Police said the suspect is described as Asian, in his 20s, with a medium build, between five feet eight inches to six feet tall, with a moustache and black hair.
He was last seen wearing glasses, a black hoodie, brown gloves and black pants. He was holding scissors with blue handles.
“I am shocked and appalled to learn a student wearing a hijab was assaulted on the way to school this morning in Scarborough,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement Friday. “No child should ever be afraid walking to school in Toronto because of what they are wearing or for any other reason.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also commented on the incident in a Cabinet meeting Friday afternoon.
“My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion… I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is — that is not who Canadians are.”
WATCH: ‘Not who Canadians are’: PM comments on hijab attack on 11-year-old girl
Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement on Twitter calling the incident a “cowardly act of hatred, and it has no place in Ontario.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly tweeted that “Our children should feel safe in Canada regardless of faith, where we are born or what language we speak. Diversity is our strength.”
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz said social workers are on scene for any student who may need to talk. They will return to the school Monday as well.
WATCH: Farah Nasser speaks with Sabreen Azraq of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women about Friday’s incident
She said the school is a “shining example of inclusivity” and called Noman an “extremely brave and incredible little girl.”
Police are urging anyone who may have witnessed both incidents to come forward. Police are also canvassing the area and are looking for any surveillance footage of incident.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-4200 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
—With a file from the Canadian Press
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